Why the Term “Married Single Parent” Hurts Your Single Parent Friends

This post has been weighing on my heart. Every time someone refers to themselves as “a single parent when…” or a “married single parent” I feel so unseen, so misunderstood.

I’m not one to focus on my “single parent” status, I tend to focus only on the “parent” part, maybe because being a single parent is the only form of parenting that I’ve ever known having left my daughter’s father while still pregnant, but if I can stop one more person from saying these hurtful words, this is worth saying.

Also, if I can help one person appreciate their partnership – despite it’s unique struggles – that will be worth it as well.

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There are two things that bother me about this saying:

It Casts Single Parenting in a Negative Light

Have you ever heard a “married single parent” use the term to describe their experience positively? I haven’t.

My life, like any parent’s, is filled with joy and struggles, but I would say it’s mostly joy. I feel blessed on a daily basis, and would describe myself as a loving, positive person. Just this weekend, I had a new friend (someone I’ve known for over 6 months) express total shock that I was a single parent. It’s just not the definitive label it’s made out to be.

Edited to include: Some readers have reached out to me and said that when they use the term, they don’t intend it negatively, which is great, but for me, it doesn’t negate the insensitivity of the comment or the other 8 points that follow.

It Ignores the Experience of Single Parents

Just like how I wouldn’t call myself a “mom of six children” because I run a daycare during the day, it’s just as ludicrous to equate single parenthood with flying solo for a little while. The act of parenting independently is in reality a very small aspect of single parenting.

There are unique struggles to both single and married parenthood. Often, those struggles are just parenthood. I don’t pretend to know or understand married struggles.

I have held my friends’ hands through awful marriage problems. To be honest, I would rather be single than have an unkind partner and be in something that feels loveless. My heart goes out to those of you who use this term because actually stating the reality of your situation is so much harder.

Now, those whose partners travel for work, I kind of get it. I was a military child, I so appreciate the struggle of having your partner be separated from you for long periods of time, potentially entering dangerous situations, and trying to raise children by yourself, children who may be developing an increasing awareness of their parent’s departures (and the underlying dangers) and acting out based on that.

I cannot imagine the reality of worrying about your spouse during those times, and experiencing those highs and lows of marital relationship and support. I couldn’t imagine knowing that the person you love and are building a life with is now in harm’s way.

But, that is something separate and different from being a single parent. Not better, not worse. Not easier, not harder. And it can be really hard trying to describe what that looks like — “military spouse” or “military parent” just doesn’t seem to convey the struggles accurately. I get that you are searching for a term that conveys to others what it is exactly that you experience, but in searching for understanding of your experience by using this term, you show just how much you misunderstand mine.

But, it’s not just military spouses that refer to themselves as “single parents” when they are not.

People now throw out the term casually to refer to when their partner is at work, or during sport seasons, or if their partner isn’t being as supportive as they feel they should.

I get that you might feel alone, and maybe that’s what you’re trying to say. Then say that. My single parenting experience might be solo, but it is not negative. Writing this post is a bit weird for me, because I feel like I’m accentuating the hard aspects, when really, I’m living it up and reveling in the beauty that is creating a life with my little girl.

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The following is to describe some of the unique struggles that many single parents experience. Some of these struggles are also shared by married single parents, but I saw this post as an opportunity to build some empathy for the unique situations that single parents face that many of us don’t usually discuss.

1. Lack of Partnership and Navigating Dating with a Child

There is something amazing that is possible within a romantic relationship: you can picture a future and work together to create it. You can build a loving and unique relationship with another adult. That is something so special, and it is something that single parents don’t experience, and live with the very real possibility that they may never experience it (again).

While many of us are open to meeting someone new, that becomes a whole lot harder with the restrictions of parenthood (could you imagine navigating your old dating life and a three year old?!), and we now have this added dimension to consider: is this new person good enough for my child? Is he ready or capable of loving my child like his own should we have more children together one day?

My last serious relationship ended because the man realized he wouldn’t be able to love my daughter as his own.

I’ve also had the very scary reality of men expressing interest in me – and also commenting on my daughter’s looks.

2. Shared Responsibilities

All of the things that help run a household don’t get cut in half when there’s only one parent. Garbage still needs to make it to the curb, the car still needs to get serviced, and the house needs to get cleaned. (OK, that might be a bit easier when there isn’t another adult to clean up after!)

It is usually the case that women bare the grunt of the housework – but even when it’s not equal, some help makes a difference. 

3. Personal Time

Okay, so those whose partners’ are gone for lengthy periods of time completely understand this, but when you’re a single parent, you don’t often get a break unless someone reaches out.

Even nipping out after the kids are in bed, leaving your partner watching TV “keeping an ear out,” is something not possible for single parents. We are always the one that has to be available and on – unless we can hire someone to step in.

4. Navigating The Conversation With Your Child

For those with spouses who travel for work, you understand how tricky it can be to explain why your partner isn’t there, or why they are missing something, like a special occasion or achievement.

I have to explain to my child why her “father” is missing her life. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of explaining that a good man helped me become a mom, but he wasn’t ready to become a dad. I used to refer to myself as both her mommy and her daddy, but as she gets older she is increasingly upset about this person who chose not to be in her life.

Update: Already, school events have become difficult for her. Kids have asked her invasive questions about where her “dad” is – suggesting that he must be dead if she’s never met him.

5. Comparison and Competition

Connected to the above point, I am worried that I won’t be able to provide on the same level as my daughter’s friends’ parents, and that she will resent that or feel deprived. This is not just about the lower income potential of one person versus two, but is also about the manpower of two people.

You know those moments where your spouse does something special with the kids that you would have never thought of? Or those nights where you divide up the tasks so life actually works (even if it’s just one person stays in the house with the sleeping children while the other runs errands)? Please appreciate that. 

6. Living on One Income in a Two Income World

Housing, childcare costs, and even something as simple as a hotel rental – the world is built for double adult occupancy and doing all of that on one income can be hard, and can involve compromises that you could not imagine.

Even if one parent doesn’t bring in an income, they are likely doing things at home that help reduce the need for that second income – alleviating the need for childcare, making homemade meals, etc. I always find it so ironic when people call themselves a single parent when their partner is absent for work — when I’m single parenting, no one else is taking care of our financial health. No one else is out there, supporting the family.

Also, despite having two incomes myself, when I went to buy a house and was approved on my income level alone – the bank changed several terms because of my marital status. Despite my pre-approval being based on my family’s finances, they reduced what I was approved for and also required a 25% downpayment (up from 10% when they thought my partner was just “absent” from these meetings).

7. Invasive Questions

Because I’ve been a single mom since I was 5 months pregnant, I’ve had a lot of invasive questions. People don’t often meet single moms of infants or toddlers, so very invasive questions were often asked during first meetings, some of them very rude and judgmental.

While I feel like the questions have lessened since my daughter is now 3 years old, they still happen. I don’t know why people think it’s okay to ask the finer details of my daughter’s conception, or expect me to disparage half of her parentage, or think that I want to discuss a long-ended relationship, but they do.

I also am often asked about finances – if I’m on social services, if I receive child support, etc.

8. Friendships

Not having another partner to tag out with, not having the potential for more children (until my status changes), and sometimes having additional (or different) work schedules can make it hard to find and make friends, or maintain those relationships in the same ways.

Some of my friends regularly host mother’s night outs or book club meetings after their kids go to bed, and I look forward to attending when my daughter is ready to have a babysitter take over.

Edited to add: we’re now old enough for a babysitter to take over, but a new problem has presented itself: driving a babysitter home at the end of the night means waking my daughter up and loading her in a car at a late hour. It feels incredibly selfish to interrupt her healthy sleep so I can go out, so my social life is confined to what I can host in my living room.

 

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Thank you for taking the time to read this list, and for letting me speak from my heart.

The fact is, as much as people can feel entitled to use any term they want – and hey, go right aheadI wrote this post to explain why this term can be hurtful to single parents. I’ve had countless single parents reach out to me to thank me for this post – and people reach out to thank me for explaining why this term is hurtful because their single parent friend got upset after they used it.

I hope that if you are feeling single or lonely in your relationship, that maybe this can give you some bits to be appreciative of, or encourage you to seek change. I don’t want to diminish anyone else’s struggles, nor make it seem like single parenting is one big struggle — hello, unilateral decision making! — but I do want to encourage those who use this phrase to seek out a different term to describe their experience, because the fact is this term is negative and it ignores all of the different facets of single parenthood – it’s not just parenting solo. My friend who is a military spouse uses the term, “married, flying solo” which I love. It has a positive connotation and it still gets the point across.

 

PS – as of January 2021, I have disabled comments on this post. The amount of people who come here, scan the post without actually reading it, and then insult single parents and me, is disgusting and speaks to their entitlement. Go on and keep using the term, knowing that it can be hurtful and diminishing to the single parents in your circle. That’s your choice. I will miss getting the positive stories of friendships being reconciled or someone realizing that they were hurtful by using this term.

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167 Comments

  1. I think people might have an unrealistic image of their friends’ situations, which is why they might feel neglected even while married. Hearing how lucky we are from an outside perspective is such a valuable reminder of what we do have. And I agree that in conservative surroundings (I’m there too…) it’s so much tougher, as “traditional” family life is expected, although there’s no way that can be a given. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This is so well said and well-written. I’m married and have definitely heard other moms say this before. I never thought about the connotation until now. My husband is gone a LOT for work and I usually say just that “I’m alone a lot”. Single parents are true heroes in my eyes. I have a partner who does just about as much as I do and being a parent/running a household is still so hard. THanks so much for sharing this!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I think it’s a blind spot, and I don’t think most people mean it negatively or even realize that single parents might find it hurtful, which is why I thought I’d give that insight 🙂

      1. I was a Single Parent for a decade and now married w a small child. I recently began using the phrase bc most ASSUME my husband is an asset to parenting. He DOES NOTHING! 100% responsibility for everything is mine. EVERYTHING! I say “Married Single Parent” bc I am! Its my way of saying my struggles are more compounded now than ever. Please don’t make assumptions…you have no idea.

        1. Hi Marissa,
          I’m sorry if you read the post and felt I made assumptions. I tried my best to say multiple times that I don’t know every situation and have respect and empathy for anyone who is struggling in their relationship. The point of this post was not to condemn, judge, or complain — it was to let people know that this phrase can be hurtful when misused.

          1. Thank you for clarifying your thoughts & intentions. Blessings to you & all parents in our unique journey in parenting! 🙂

          2. I agree. My husbands gone 85-90% of the time and I have no support when sick etc and no me time while my sil who is a single parent has a very actively involved ex and they co parent plus she lives with her parents who do the majority of the housework and pay the majority of the bills. So I don’t think this post fits all families. I am more of a “single” parent than she is. I solo parent and I should be allowed to say that if I want.

          3. You can say whatever you want – but hopefully if you fully read my article, you now know that it’s not supportive, not true, and insensitive to people who ACTUALLY do it on their own. This article is for people who didn’t mean their words to cause harm to others due to their lack of sensitivity and empathy for a lifestyle that they don’t truly understand.
            Your sister-in-law’s experience is not the norm and I think you know that.

            I’m assuming your husband is out working (and I did address that in the article), so you’ve chosen this division of work-family responsibilities. You chose to be the main caregiver. That’s different than having to do it ALL yourself, as most single parents do. Single parenting isn’t JUST being the sole parent, or sole person responsible for the household – it’s providing financially, doing the parenting/household stuff, and also knowing that there’s a good likelihood that you’ll end up single at the end of it, because you’re too busy doing the work of two people to meet a worthwhile partner.

        2. I completely agree with you. Tag team??? Yeah right! Now I’m picking up after a big child and feel angry about it. This grandeous presumption that duties are shared and parenthood is easier when married is a myth. Honestly, I’d rather have the house to myself.

          1. Hopefully you will have the house to yourself one day – he sounds HORRIBLE! How could you stay married to such a monster? Praying that you get yourself out of this terrible situation ASAP.

        3. Seriously? you’re married and he does nothing for your child? Not even buy them things? Never once held your child or tucked the child in bed? I don’t think you’re a single parent.

          1. My significant other hasn’t. It does happen. This article is ridiculous. I fell upon it because I was searching for advice on the subject and i come across an article that basically saying “you shouldn’t say that because other people have it harder” no. Everyone’s situation is different. This is stupid.

          2. Thank you, Cheryl.
            Unfortunately, this post seems to have attracted entitled people who are using the term to complain, rather than people who are willing to actually read the post and see that this term is inconsiderate and invalidating. Barely any of them actually read my post, they just come to vent in the comments.
            M Czi – no where does it say “single parents have it harder” and that’s not the point of this post. You didn’t read it – maybe you skimmed it, but you weren’t actually ready to hear the other side so I don’t know why you even clicked.

      2. What I find interesting is the number of parents that have part time custody of their children- either completely split, or weekends and holidays who refer to themselves as single parents. Yes, I realize they are parents, and they are single, but if their children have parental figures who are able to appropriately split the work, are they single parents? I get it if it’s mostly all them, or it’s like pulling teeth and you have to constantly worry about whether your previous partner is going to do something stupid while taking care of your children, but when it’s still fairly equal…? Or those who have a children and marry/ commit to a different partner as their children are growing up. They force their kids to call the other partner mom or dad, or at the very least their step mom or dad and yet still refer to themselves as single parents- while having a partner who has a very difficult job in walking that tight rope between appropriate or not and trying to help run the household and take care of any family they might have or develop…

        1. It’s definitely not cut and dry, and I don’t want to draw divisions in the sand or diminish other people’s experience. But as a whole, it’s a wonderful thing to realize one’s privileges and advantages and be appreciative for any parenting support. My parents help out often on weekends, and I know that’s something many other single parents don’t have and I feel VERY lucky for that.

        2. I’ve been in several situations. I’ve been a married parent, single parent, part-time parent (because of having to share the kids with my ex), and also a “married single parent”. I’m not going to get into a big debate over it because people will always have their own ideas and agree or disagree with what you say. All I’m going to say is that every situation I’ve been in has had difficulties in it’s own right. None has been any easier than any other, and I think comparing them really isn’t what should be done because each situation IS different and the issues that arise in each situation are my own, not of parenting per se. I love my kids and that’s really what matters at the end of the day. They are my world, no matter what my relationship status is and what it’s difficulties are.

          1. Thanks for your comment, Jade. I so hope that my post isn’t taken as a comparison or “single parenting is more difficult” plea, as I stated – neither are harder, they’re just different.
            My intent was just to give an awareness and appreciation for the scope of single parenting – many people don’t realize that it’s more than just doing the act of parenting solo, and I wanted to also make married parents aware that this term might have the potential to have their single parent friends feel misunderstood.

      3. Jennifer, I am now a military wife and mother to seven wonderful children spanning all the age ranges, from 10 months to 16 years. I was a single mom to the oldest three prior to marrying my current wonderful hubby. We met when my oldest was 5, we spent the first two years doing everything together, then he joined the military. I was an army brat so I knew kind of what we were in for, he left for basic training and I stayed behind with no real income. If I was working it paid for daycare and not much else, so I have stayed home with my kids there whole lives. I know that in itself is a blessing, and I’m greatful for it. I often refer to myself as a married but single mom, due to his long work hours, trainings, deployments, and all those other military reasons to not be home., but also because when he is home his head is still thinking work. I love my hubby don’t get me wrong but I don’t feel that he is ever truly home with me and the kids. I know what it is to be a single mom, I know the struggle, however I also know that for some of us military and I’m sure other long hour not at home every night spouse jobs, we don’t feel that we have the support from our other halves, yes we have there paycheck but we don’t have them. That being said we feel single in the challenges that come with raising kids, appointments, bills, everything, and being social ya sometimes social is being online having a typed out chat with a friend or someone we met online. Time alone, what’s that? So yes while I understand that the saying married single parent can be offensive I feel that not all of us who say it mean it to be rude, it’s simply our way of expressing how we feel.

        1. Hi Jessica,
          Thanks for your comment, and for respectfully disagreeing 🙂 I completely understand WHY some people say it and for many of my friends it was a blind spot that this article opened up for them, and I appreciate that you have both perspectives — as stated in the last paragraph, I wish there was a lingo to express what it is that you experience that is more respectful of my experience, or that we were more comfortable as a society with being vulnerable so that military spouses could come out and say what it is that they ARE experiencing – which is lonely.

          I still stand 100% behind this piece because most people really don’t realize how hyperbolic “married single parent” is; they truly didn’t have an understanding of the scope of single parenthood. I work an 65hr workweek (mostly from home) in order to afford my privilege of staying home with my daughter, yet I still feel incredibly blessed – but that difference alone highlights something to me.

          I think there are more ways where our parenthood intersect, and the majority of my blog – no one would be able to tell that I’m a single parent, but this was something that was on my heart to say, thanks for taking the time to read it.

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  3. I whole heartily agree! I was a single mother to 4 for almost 11 years. My youngest was adopted about 2 years before my ex and I separated and you can’t believe the rude things people said to me about that! And while being the only decision maker is ok for most things, there were so many things I wanted to run by someone else who knew and loved my children as I did (i.e.a spouse!)
    I heard similar comments during my single parenthood and I wanted so badly to say- you really have no idea what being a single parent is about.
    Thank you for being brave enough to write this. I hope many people see it. I am sharing on my personal and blog facebooks.

    1. That’s very true. I like being the sole decision maker when I’m totally sure, but there are times when I’d love that equal second opinion. I have some really wonderful friends who are receptive, but yes, they’re not as invested and sometimes I feel like I’m asking too many questions LOL 🙂

  4. THANK YOU.

    You really captured the reality of life as a single parent. I love, adore and relish my 4 year old son- but it is different than what my married friends say. #6 and 8 really spoke to me.

    1. Thank you, and I LOVE being a single mama, too 🙂 I hope our married friends read this and don’t see it as complaining, but just appreciate our differences.

  5. I think that there are times that a married person can be a single parent. I fell like more of a single parent now that when I raised my daughter alone for 11 years. I never ever had the struggles I have now when I actually was a “single parent”. I also was very happy as a single parent. I’m very happy now as a mother to my 3 kids but not as a single “married”spouse. My spouse is completely selfishly uninvolved in every aspect of the hard parenting. Yes he works, but so do I. He does nothing. We have have MANY a horrible fight over this issue and he doesn’t change. It’s exhausting. It is not a partnership, and it adds extra burden to me. I was a lot less stressed as a “single parent”. I can understand why people would say they’re “married single parents”.

    1. Thanks for your comment, J. I am so sorry to hear about what’s happening, and my heart really goes out to you. I completely understand and respect that each relationship can have it’s struggles — I’m a psychologist! LOL
      I don’t want you to feel like you’re being judged in your situation; my post was meant to describe how single parenthood can be different, and why people who use the term “married single parent” casually may be unintentionally hurting those around them, or causing them to feel misunderstood.
      Thank you for giving me an opportunity to understand why you use the term.

  6. Thank you so much for this! I actually had to share this to my mother who lives 3 doors down from me, yet doesn’t lift a dinner to help me. I guess she went through a mid life crisis and had 2 more children at the age of 43. She’s married but never appreciates what she has, even being able to compare her situation to mine. She swears she has it harder than I do. But has never been there for me my whole life, so her behavior now isn’t surprising, but still heartbreaking all the same. She’s so selfish, if it doesn’t concern her she isn’t interested, even when it comes to her own children

    1. Oh, Kristen, I can’t even tell you how much I resonate with your comment! 🙂
      I hope it’s an awareness thing. Even writing the post, many people have criticized me for playing the victim or complaining when I’m really not – I’m describing our differences. It’s the one time in four years of single parenting where I’ve laid out the differences, and I think the response has been telling. It’s understandable why single parents like us can’t go around asking our family to see all of these things when we open ourselves up to judgement for being honest about our unique struggles or situations.
      I hope your mother reads it and gets a little bit of it, enough to maybe appreciate what she has and what you experience.

  7. Totally on point. From one single mom to another. My fav reactions to someone hearing I was pregnant … “I didn’t know you were a lesbian” (FWIW. I’m not. It’s not a requirement for single moms.)

    1. HA! My best was anything from “Did you tell him?” to “Was it a one-night stand?” to “Was he crazy?” UM, none of anyone’s business. (For the record, YES, NO, and I wouldn’t speak ill about my child’s father, even if he was… and he wasn’t. LOL)

  8. Thank you for this article. As a single parent to a 2 1/2 yr old I have often felt exactly what you wrote about. It is so hurtful when people unknowingly say that they were “practically single” because their partners never chipped in. It’s completely different. No less challenging, but just different. In fact I don’t see a need to compare at all. One persons experience is better, or worse, easier, or harder, than anothers, just different. I thank you for giving me some of the words that I can use the next time someone does say this to me.

    1. Thank you, Heather. I hope people read it as you did, I hope it contributes to a greater awareness of the scope of single parenting – that it’s not just the act of parenting solo for a while.

  9. As for your daughter feeling deprived of not having a male role model – that CAN be easy to get around! I was a single mom as well and I wondered about having a male role model for my son to teach him to tough, strong, gentlemanly, etc. the guy stuff….

    I read a book or an article about this and it said to ask some of your male friends to help out. They know you’re a single mom and most are happy to help! So I had a couple of friends and my dad that have assumed that “male role model” position. They would wrestle with him, or just play with him. Because guys play differently than girls. And I think that helped a lot! Because my son was beginning to ask about makeup and nail polish and that kind of stuff – I explained to him these are girls only things. So one day my dad heard him asking about nail polish and he immediately was like “what?!?! You wanna look like a girl?! You’re a boy…boys don’t wear polish or makeup!! We get dirty and sweat…we don’t need makeup or polish!” And I told him similar things tons of times but that ONE time from my dad sealed it! From that point on he’s always wrinkled his nose to girly things!

    So if you have any good male friends – talk to them about it and I’m sure they’ll be glad to help!

    1. Thanks so much for your wonderful comment, Morgan. G’s lucky that she has three overbearing uncles and two grandparents, and I love that they do all of the “typical guy” things that I either don’t think of, or just prefer not to do. (Fishing with worms – that’s a grandpa job. 🙂 )

    2. This was so interesting to read and to read some of the comments.. I was married then divorced and feel single parenting is difficult .. but can. NOw see that in some circumstances like being a military wife it is difficult too. I live in an area that is not the norm I think.. not that people are ” happily married” because who knows.. but that the majority I would say 95 percent are married and that could even be a conservative number .. making it difficult for me and my kids I realize as they get older . It’s. Not the financial stuff I make a good living thankfully. ( albeit it has been difficult and remains so as a woman who had to play catch up when at home with kids.. and still being the mom who has to take off when kids are sick) but it’s not that.. and it’s not even the emotional when kids are having difficult times or hard decisions have to be made and there is no one to talk to but yourself.. and it’s not even the garbage that still needs to be taken out or the spider that has to be killed or when you yourself are so sick but still have to be on.. for me it is the ever increasing isolation which I thought just effected me but I realize now effects my kids.. while I watched everyone’s kids when my kids were younger saying this is great my kids have friends and I don’t mind the mess and the noise and anything.. it was the parents I should have been trying to make better friends with. The ones who didn’t want me as a friend because I was the third wheel or might be trying to steal their husband . So here I am kids in early teens basically friendless as the marrieds didn’t want me around or didn’t think of me .. and so are my kids because at this age now the parents make the rules and vacationed together for five or seven years and their kids have solid friendships because they had to and I am nowhere there and neither are my kids.. summers are brutal my kids have to go to camp or to grandparents because I work.. in my particular area .. I just sat down and thought about it and ran through all the kids and said omg .. these kids parents are either teachers.. summers off or stay at home moms .. there are literally no other moms like me.. so their kids get to build friendships all summer long and my kids.. nothing.. just wow.. this is the hardest part for me right now. It feels sad and hard and I quite frankly don’t know what to do. I feel like a failure for sure. I tried talking to their dad he brushed me off because it is my problem not my kids even though I said no one calls my kids to hang out.. no one ever.. all these kids I had over for years and years.. but we are not home in the summer.. no one calls my kids ever. And certainly vacationing together is out .. I’m still the third wheel.. I can only hope it ends up ok for my kids that I failed them.. better I was in a less affluent neighborhood where there were more people like me.. not here. Everyone is married and everywhere they love being married and talking about their wives and husbands .. and the vacations they just went on with several other families.. so yeah I get it the feeling like you are single but kinda not.. it’s brutal and maybe it does depend on the situation and where you live. I was so concerned my kids would hurt if I downgraded and kill myself to stay here in this community but here I am a Non entity and so are my kids. Just wanted to share this when I am feeling so at a loss.

      1. Hi L,
        I totally understand. We aren’t often invited for family get-togethers either because there isn’t someone “for the dad” and sadly, I agree – the families, the kids get closer to the other traditional families. But it has forced me to get out of my comfort zone and do more initiating, inviting moms for playdates or volunteering more with my daughter’s school (which is harder when you do have to work and be a sole provider). It is hard when you’re already exhausted from a week of doing everything yourself, but I don’t ever think it’s too late to start.
        Your kids go to school with these kids – have them invite a couple over after work/camp one night. They might not be as close as the other kids, but I’m sure they have friends and they just need more opportunities to deepen those friendships. And what about the other kids at camp? Sounds like they might be in similar boats with working parents, maybe that’s a great place for them to make some connections?

  10. Thank you for sharing your perspective. However, i am a self professed married single parent. Let me explain. … my husband works a “normal” job. He leaves for work about the same time i leave to take the kids to school. He could take them but chooses not to. I am the one who takes car of seeing that the vehicles are maintained, garbage is out by the curb and the lawn is mowed. He doesn’t help with household chores very rarely helps with our 3 children. I rarely get out of the house alone and when i do it is usually after I’ve put the kids to bed.
    I need to stop before someone thinks I’m complaining. After all, my husband works so that i get to stay home all day….

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Thank you for your thoughtful and kind comment. I completely understand that not everyone has the picture-perfect relationship and I hope you didn’t feel misunderstood when reading this post. (And I know some people thought I was complaining, though that wasn’t my intent!)

      I’m sorry that you don’t receive more support at home, I hope that changes, but good for you for doing what needs to get done – for yourself and for your kids. Rockstar.

    2. Sarah, I completely understand how you feel. I am in a very similar situation. Just know, although our pain is silenced, we are not alone. I feel like other parents simply dismiss our cases regarding how disconnected our other parent can be in a household, even though they live under the same roof. They can be so distant to the point where it almost feels like you are co-parenting under the same house. It can also be more mentally damaging to a child with a family dynamic like that. I think it’s safe to assume that any angle of parenting can be super tough. For us “married single moms,” we need to come up with another term so the real “single moms” aren’t feeling like we are silencing their daily struggles…even though other moms are doing that to us.😊

  11. Thank you for your perspective. I believe that if married mothers are saying they feel unsupported and like single married mothers then that is how they feel. Who are we to say what terminology they should use to describe where they are at? Relationships change with the birth of children and some of those mums maybe experiencing isolation, and violence which can express itself in a number of ways not just physically. Such isolation has the said effect. Married Single Mother

    1. Hi Nadia,
      Thanks for your comment. I agree – I am not about censorship or telling others how they should feel. But I do want “married single parents” to know that the term has the potential to unintentionally offend or hurt their single parent friends when used casually. I’ve had friends and acquaintances alike use the term with me, often to describe work trips or baseball season, and yes, it hurts to feel like your friend can just dismiss or diminish the scope of the single parenting experience to just “parenting solo for a while.”

  12. I understand everything in this article, I understand why you are writing it. I did not know this was a term people casually used. I have used this term myself but, just to shed light on another perspective, when I used the term I actually fit into 7 of these 9 experiences, leaving out only the last one because I was not technically single and had not ever heard this phrase and invasive questions because looking in from the outside people thought my life should be wonderful and easy and couldn’t understand why I was having such a difficult time, which just made me feel bad. It WAS a negative experience for me, not the parenting aspect of it, that part in itself was great, but the fact that I was having to it all on my own and be lonely and have no rest even though I was married and thought I should have someone who at least told me I was doing good in their absence from time to time. In addition to the other 7 experiences, I also made my husband’s meals when he was home, cleaned up after him, ran his errends, filled out his job applications, and lived with my parents and lived in fear of my husband’s anger, hearing him put me down because of what I hadn’t done a good enough job on, and hearing my dad express his disappointment and irritation at the situation. In a tearful breakdown I used the term “married single parent” to explain all I was going through and how alone and completely exhausted I was. I then added “I am glad I am not a single parent because I have hope I can get out of this time and not have to do it forever or date someone in order to not have to do it. If I was single, though, at least I could make my own decisions without having to check with someone who really doesn’t care anyway.” Most people who experience what I went through are single parents soon after. In many ways I longed for being single for the freedom from disappointing my husband and doing what I thought was best without being questioned. I held on to my marriage because I was afraid of dating and worn out by doing things on my own. Three years later, things are still a struggle, but much improved and I would no longer use this term as I know I am no longer in that position.

    In no way is this meant to argue a case, I also think using that term to mean “my spouse is not here right now” is ridiculous. I just simply wanted to share a different perspective, from someone who really was like a single parent in many aspects, even though they were legally married.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your perspective. I truly don’t want to dictate how people view themselves, and I totally understand how other relationships can be harder than single parenthood — I am a psychologist! LOL. I am really sorry to hear about your experience and truly, my heart goes out to you.
      I really hope people don’t read this as a “single parents have it harder” but more, understanding that if they call themselves a married single parent to a single parent they may unintentionally offend and cause a rift or hurt.

      1. Wow there have been so many comments added since I commented!!!! Yes, I totally understand why you said what you said, in fact I think if I heard someone say it when obviously they are not I would be pretty annoyed myself after my experience. I know there are aspects of being a single parent I cannot understand (and I have no idea how you can afford a place to live and childcare!!! That was my hardest struggle and we did kind of sort of have 2 incomes!!!). I have a lot of respect for single moms, and that comes largely from what I experienced and the fact that there really is no rest. I did want to share my view because not all married women have the things you described. I’m glad being a single parent is not a negative experience for you. Parenting has it’s challenges, but it’s also one of the best things in the world!! Thank you for your kind response.

        1. That honestly is one of the hardest things – making it all work. Daycare where I live is $56/day or more in a centre, and $35+ for home-based, and I live in a university town where housing is inflated. I now run a Montessori daycare/preschool out of my home and that has been such a blessing!
          This blog is normally dedicated to kids’ activities and kids’ psychology, but this topic was weighing on me. 🙂

      2. One more thing to add after reading some of the other comments… I am seeing there is a lot of “this is harder/this is easier” and though your article did not read that way and you have again clarified that, for those of us who have used that phrase and truly felt it rather than just tossing it around what we are describing is a very hard time. Now that I see this comment being made so frequently I apologize for making mine. I guess this is one of those things where I feel like I am the only one who experiences it even though clearly I’m not.

        1. Thank you for your reflection, Laura. I want to invite people to speak honestly – the more we try to use these terms to (inadequately) describe what we’re going through (and possibly put people off unintentionally) the more difficult it can be to get to the reality of what we’re trying to say.
          It’s easier to say “I feel like a married single parent” and allow someone to draw their own conclusions, than to say “I feel lonely and unappreciated in my relationship” or what have you, but as you’ve seen, that just causes two parties to be misunderstood. I really appreciate your time spent reading and commenting.

  13. Thank you for writing this. It’s everything I’ve felt since my daughter was born 10 years ago, but haven’t been able to express in words. Being a truly single parent for 10 years has been hard, but worth the unconditional love and true joy I’ve gotten in return. I wouldn’t change my life for anything. People always seem to feel pity for me when they find out I’m a single mom with no husband or boyfriend and my daughter doesn’t have a dad. Thanks again and extremely well written!

    1. Thank you! I have been a bit shocked by how many people feel this post is complaining, because I truly LOVE being a single mom. I have also experienced a lot of pity, judgment, and misunderstanding – so I felt the need to at least put one conversation out there to counter it!

  14. I think the biggest thing for me now that I’m divorced (with an ex who is unemployed so there’s no money coming in from him and who doesn’t have his license so even if he has the kids I’m the one still running them around and who doesn’t spend much quality time with them when they are with him) is that there’s no moral support. At the end of the hard day/week/month/year there’s no one to hold. There’s no one to plan outings/trips with…yes I enjoy taking my kids places but sometimes it would be nice to have another adult with. When I’m pondering decisions there’s no one helping me make them who is fully vested in it, I have a group of amazing friends who give advice but at the end of the day my decision isn’t affecting their life so it’s different. I have no one to plan the future with. My marriage was far from perfect, hence the divorce, so I understand that married parents don’t have everything easy and cut and dry with everyone fully playing their roles, but this is the biggest difference for me.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience, Rebekah. I definitely don’t think married parents have it easier, I hope I conveyed that. But yes, as you describe, there are certain things that can get taken for granted or overlooked when there is just a lack of awareness. I hope one day to have those things, and I hope you re-experience them one day, too.

  15. What a great article and perspective you gave so many of us moms! I have a spouse who has been traveling a ton for work and gives the the great, yet challenging reward of being an at home mom/wife with an at home business/hobby as well!! I have sadly and apologeticly referred to my feelings of struggle as a married single parent…I am so sorry…I had no idea of the negative I was putting on it by doing so!!! Only my niave way of expressing the current feelings of struggle…again, my deepest apologies and inmmediate correction!! Thank you for being so honest, real, open, brave and caring…as well as strong on your own!!! I hope more people around you step up and offer up help, not questions or hurtful comments!!! Happy Motherhood to all us mothers!!!

  16. Amazingly well said. I find that being in a relationship didn’t mean that you are any better set than if you were alone. I have been in every situation…single parent, dating parent, unmarried yet together parent, married parent, married yet doing it all myself parent. I think people can use any term they like to describe their “status”. I find it is much harder to have someone in the house that “could” help but didn’t…than knowing I am on my own. Everyone has their own struggles. Let’s just support each other as MOTHERS!

    1. Thank you both for your comments and for taking the time to read my thoughts!

      I didn’t intend for people to read this as “single parenting is harder” and I did try to explain that in the post. My point was how this term makes single parents feel; I’m hoping that the people who read this care that using this term can unintentionally hurt single parent friends, or make them feel misunderstood. I so do not think that marriage or partnership means you have it easier – in fact, there are many ways where it can be harder, as you so well point out.

      The fact is, single parenting is more than parenting solo, and that is often what “married single parent” is used to describe: a short-term stint of being the sole acting parent, while still having a committed spouse who may or may not be active when they come back around. This term is thrown around so casually that I felt the need to say something and share some insight. I know many of my friends had no idea until reading this about some of the aspects I mentioned. It was meant to built awareness, not vent or diminish others. I hope you can see that.

    2. Completely agree, I was a single mother for 7 years and am now married with a little one too. For the first 2 years of marriage he was unemployed so I was the sole breadwinner and did everything for my daughter and the house etc. Now with us both working and two children I still do everything. I always say to myself how much easier it was for me being a single mother than being married but living with all of the same duties and responsibilities as a single mother. I think that until you have experienced both sides you really can’t have a proper feel on what it is like to feel like a single married parent because I feel that way all the time. As a former single mother I can understand how it could be annoying because at that time I had no perspective of married life. We have no date nights because our expenses and bills have us tapped out and there is no time. The grass is always greener….. everyone is entitled to their own feelings and opinions. In my personal experience, living both the single parent life and married parent life has its challenges, unless you meet the most amazing perfect man in the world who doesn’t exist then there will be struggles and every mother will feel like a single married parent at one point in their life.

      1. Thank you for your comment, Amanda. I definitely don’t think that one situation is inevitably easier. My intention was to give an idea as to what the scope of single parenting – SO many people don’t understand that it’s more than just “parenting solo for a short stint.”
        I completely appreciate and respect that ALL of those issues can occur in a partnership.
        My post’s intent was to encourage thoughtfulness in our words. I can’t describe how many people have casually described themselves as married single parents to me, and how misunderstood that leaves me.

  17. You know ur struggles they know theirs, what a person decides to call themselves is up to them, My husband works away but I personally would never call myself a Married single parent because that would undermind my husband who is a great father. Like I said everyone has their own struggles with parenting and the household I won’t list you mine. There is things we all wish wouldnt be said…I personally dont apreciate it when on mother’s day people use the phrase Happy Mother’s Day especially to Single Mothers or the ones that are mom and dad….why is it that a single mother should have a happier mothers day than a married one?? Just putting that out there!

    1. Karen, absolutely! The intention of this post wasn’t to list struggles – it was to explain that single parenting is more than just parenting solo and that the term can unintentionally hurt single parents when used casually in conversation, or to describe temporary arrangements.
      I don’t think single moms like me need an extra shout-out on Mother’s Day, but I do appreciate when people acknowledge us or our children’s experience on Father’s Day. My daughter’s preschool was very insensitive about how “I wasn’t her daddy” and luckily she’s spunky enough that she told them, “she’s my mommy and my daddy.”

      1. I would understand if someone used the term in a mocking way I would understand a little more but then again you would know they are doing it just to bother you and I understand that since you are a single parent it does get to you just like the Mother’s Day thing gets to me…and I am all for the acknowledgment on Father’s Day for the mothers who truly don’t have a good father in sight at all even if its part time, because then we open a whole new can of worms.

        1. I think my issue is that it’s used so casually – during baseball season if the husband tunes out during games, or when husbands are on work trips. It’s said without awareness of the scope of single parenting, and it’s been said to me as a single parent, who lives the bigger reality of it every day, so it gets to be disrespectful.

  18. Well, I can honestly say I am a married single parent.

    Why? I married my estranged husband. We split up in 2990. I moved to my home state, Ohio. He remains in Florida. I have all the responsibilities of the two kids we have together. he has no contact with the. He has only seen them twice since 2009.

    I live on my SSI disability check, after my husband shot and disabled me. I can’t afford to pay for a divorce. In my state it cost $2000 to get it started. Since, we have two kids together, a divorce is the only option in the state I live in.

    So, yes, I can say I am a married single parent. Trust me, I wish I could drop the married part.

    1. Oh my goodness, Sandy, I am so sorry to hear about that. My post was more directed to the parents who use it to describe baseball season or travelling partners – I think your situation deserves “married single parent” or something as unique as the situation warrants. I hope that everything can be settled in the future and you can continue to be an amazing mom to your kids.

  19. This article brought tears to my eyes. I was a single mother for 9 years. They were the best 9 years but also with reflection they were hard. This article truly captures what it is to be a single parent and the frustration I felt when married/partnered women would refer to their life a married single parent.
    Even though I say frustration it was never something I was angry about it was always something I just wish people would think about when they made that comment.
    I am now a married parent to 2 beautiful children. Parenting is just as hard for married people. I have the ideal partner now who helps, is understanding, we support each other in the raising of our children (one mine and one ours) but that doesn’t remove the difficulty in raising children or the parent guilt and pressure we place on ourselves.
    What resignates so strongly with me now is that the term “married single parent” is very negative but not intentional in its delivery. It is used to describe hard times, but with that statement I feel these parents are crying out for help too as they are not feeling the emotional and physical support they need.
    So perhaps when labelling struggles in parenting, society should make it easier to say “parenting is hard” and “I need more support”
    Thank you for your wonderful article and continue to enjoy your sole parenting experience.

    1. Thank you, Bec, for such a thoughtful and kind comment. I am totally with you that parenting needs to be more supportive — this is the first time EVER on my blog that I’ve written about something that I have felt personally hurt by. I usually write positive parenting support for all parents from all walks of life – but this time, I needed to give awareness to the married parents while supporting the single parents.
      I think married parenting is JUST as hard, and we both have struggles – I don’t want anyone to read this article and think that I think they must have it easy. There needs to be greater empathy and compassion all around; I think that’s why some people have co-opted this term, because they feel like they need to overstate their reality to really describe how it is that they feel. I get it.

  20. I’ve been both. . A single parent and now u do refer to myself as a married – single parent as my husband us military and without a showdown of a doubt being a single married parent is by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to experience before in my life!

  21. Thanks so much for writing this post. I’m one of those moms guilty of using this phrase. Before reading this insightful article, I thought it described my situation well – my husband travels out of state every week and is only home on the weekends.

    Although I usually say I “feel” like a single parent during the week and I truly mean it with the utmost respect (how on earth do single moms of multiples juggle it all), I do realize that I get the emotional support of daily phone calls and the physical support during the weekend. Thanks so much for shedding some light from the other perspective.

    1. Thanks for your kind and respectful comment, Pat. I completely respect and appreciate what you go through during those times, and couldn’t imagine the highs and lows of that!

  22. I feel the need to chime in here. I am a newly single parent and I must say that after being in a marriage with an unavailable partner, my life is actually easier now. As you are asking “those married people who need to appreciate their situation despite its struggles” not to judge your experience, please do not judge theirs. Being in an unhappy marriage with children to care for is hell.

    1. Hi Kel,
      Thanks for commenting. MY post was not about those in unhappy marriages, but I did feel like I mentioned that I obviously have no point of reference and that I do not want to diminish other’s struggles. This post is not about “my struggles are bigger/worse/etc” – this post is about giving those who have no awareness of single parenting a bit of insight, and hopefully encouraging those who use this saying to describe a baseball-obsessed husband, or a travelling husband, from using that term in front of their single parent friends and unintentionally causing hurt.

  23. As a mother of three who was a single parent and a married parent I understand the term single parent for married people. Marital status does not always change parenting status. I face many of the same struggles now as I did then, often feeling it was easier as a single parent, definitely more support before

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Thanks for your comment and your perspective – I don’t mean to convey either as easier, but just to make people aware that single parenting is more than the act of parenting solo. I’m sorry that your support network isn’t as available, but congrats on the marriage!

  24. As a mom of three, who has now spent equal parts of my parenting life as single and married I disagree. I don’t think the two statuses should be joined. In your points I would look like a single parent. I too need to discuss my my daughters biological father has never met her. I have less money married then I did when single. I was able to buy them way more when I was single. Because I was single I qualified for subsidies I no longer get. The cost of daycare is now 1200 a month for me when single it was 150 a month. When single I got 800 a month for rental subsidy. My husband only makes 2000 a month but there are more costs when married.. 2 cars so we can both work, more food etc. And I get out less as I can’t afford a sitter and have less help from family and friends since being married people assume you need less help. I do not have that companionship since I can’t afford daycare I need to work opposite shifts so I see my husband a few hours of the week. And as many good qualities as he has sharing household responsibilities is not his strength. I am sorry this term hurts you but the idea that just because your single makes you any different than those married seems exclusive to me.

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Thank you so much for your comment. I definitely don’t want to convey that single parenting is harder, or more exclusive. MY point was to give those who use this term casually an idea as to the scope of single parenting. It’s shocking how many people think it is JUST the act of parenting solo, and maybe also a bit of financial things thrown in there. Obviously it doesn’t hurt me when people I don’t know use the term, but when a friend or acquaintance uses the term to describe a baseball obsession, or a work trip, it does leave me feeling misunderstood in that friendship – and I know for myself, if I knew a phrase or saying left my friend feeling less than awesome, I’d figure out something else to say.

    2. Sarah Says is 100% right. There are a lot of financial benefits that you receive as a single parent that actually put you in a better position than a married couple. You don’t have to consult with or do extra housework for another adult when you’re single. Also people are more empathetic to single parents and are more willing to help. I always see single parents being offered child care because people feel bad for them and want to give them a break. The single mothers I know have way more personal time than married mothers

      1. I definitely have not seen or received any of these so-called financial benefits. If anything, I have been treated harsher while buying property or making investments because as a single person I am considered a “risky investor” – despite my income or assets. I’m assuming you mean benefits for “low income families” which aren’t specific to single parents. It’s also one of the negative assumptions of single parenthood that we MUST be low income.
        While your personal observations in your immediate friend group may be that people help out more, that is not the case for many of us. The only childcare I have received I’ve either paid for or swapped for – just like any parent. I’ve actually been the friend always offering to help my married friends out with childcare so they can have a date night, and it’s usually assumed that I wouldn’t need or appreciate the same offer. I should note that I’m not divorced, so I don’t have times when my child is in the care of an ex-partner; there are some differences between “full time” single parents and “divorced” single parents – but I wouldn’t be able to speak to that more broadly.

  25. I kinda get where you are coming from because I have been a married parent, a single parent, a single parent back in the dating world with a 6, 2 and a 3 year old, and again a married parent. However, I don’t consider the term single parent to be a negative term. I consider it to be something to be proud of. Not only am I a parent, I am a super parent because I do everything you do, but I do it alone, so I really rock. At least that was my attitude. Not that I was better than married parents, just that I was proud to be a single parent. I think viewing the term single parent as negative is odd.

    Ultimately we can’t control what other’s do or say. All we can do is control ourselves. So, I would just stop viewing being single parent as a negative term and wear that badge proudly! Your darling certainly is proud of all you do I am sure!

    1. Hi Allyson,
      Thank you so much for your kind comment! I definitely don’t want to control others or how they view themselves, but I did want to share a piece of my heart as this phrase has been used by friends and acquaintances of mine who I am sure would not have used it if they knew that it left me feeling misunderstood or hurt.
      I love being a mama, I think I rock at it and it sounds like you do, too 😉 I hope the rest of my blog conveys the joy of that life, even if I had to slow down and speak from the heart for this post.

  26. My mother was unexpectedly given the title of single parent when I was ten with three younger sisters. Though an extremely difficult experience for her and my siblings and me, it definitely instilled a sense of pride in me at my mom’s inner strength. I am convinced that, though my life would have been better in so many ways had my dad remained, I had the experiences of a lifetime learning to support my family, pulling together, marveling at the generosity of strangers and friends. My mom’s experiences allow her to speak hope into single parents’ lives to this day. And my awareness and compassion for the single parents in my circles of friends allows me to ease burdens like others did for me, once upon a time.

    Thank you for refreshing my perspective and allowing me to be filled with gratitude once again!

    1. Christina, THANK YOU for your comment and being someone who goes out of her way to give kindness and compassion – it’s beautiful. Your mom was and is a rockstar, and it looks like she did an awesome job 🙂

  27. I loved this article. Thank you for sharing. As a single mom since I was 5 months prego as well, I felt like you took the words out of my mouth. It is comforting to know there are people out there that truly understand :-). Oddly enough when you search for them, they can be hard to find.
    My daughter is almost 3 and she is the best thing in my life. I have been ridiculed not only for having her on my own but then judged because she is mixed race. All that makes us stronger.
    I plan on sharing this article with all my married friends who claim to be single parents as well. Parenting is challenging for anyone be it a single parent or a married couple. But it sure can be a little easier when you have a night out every week. That is something most single parents never get to experience.
    Thank you again for sharing this article. It felt good not to feel alone for a change.

  28. When I was married, I would sometimes refer to myself as a married single parent, exactly for all the reasons you list, except that I didn’t have to work, and I lived on a military base where there were other SAH moms. There was no romance, no shared responsibility, no companionship, no respite– he didn’t babysit. I would have to explain why daddy was golfing all day Saturday instead of going with us to the zoo. There was no planning a future together, just him telling me what we were going to do. Being a divorced mom is harder, because I have to work, and I don’t get to spend as much time with my kids as I want to. But don’t be so quick to dismiss the struggle of a mom who feels like a concubine to a generous but distant benefactor.

    1. Hi JenNa,
      I don’t think I at all dismissed the struggles of other parents – my post was an attempt to give an idea of the scope of single parenting to those who think it is merely “parenting solo for a while.” I’m sorry if you read my words, and felt dismissed.

  29. Thank you so much for writing this. I am a single parent of 8 year old twin boys. I chose to be a single parent and love my boys but I get so frustrated when friends and family comment that they understand because it is like they were single parents because their spouse worked so much, ect. Totally get where you are coming from!

  30. It’s been a particularly rough week, and it’s only Tuesday. I sat hear reading this as tears streamed down my face. I have been a single Mom since before I even knew I was pregnant. Long story, but he was out of my life before I’d have even been a month pregnant. I tried over 15 years to get pregnant and waa devastated it never happened. So when I had my daughter at the age of 39, I was in heaven. I never complain because she is my beautiful miracle, but life working a full time job and paying bills isn’t easy. My house hasn’t been spotless since the night before I went into labor. I’m exhausted and broke all the time, yet I’m happy. But reading about someone who has and is going through this…made me feel like I’m not alone. My daughter will be 2 next week. I come from a small town. I’m still unsure how to address the “dad” issue but somehow I will. Thank you!

    1. Thanks for commenting! It’s a tricky topic, but I think addressing it and having that open dialogue are most important, not necessarily what is said. I have no hate for my daughter’s father despite his choices or weaknesses – if he wasn’t exactly who he is, she wouldn’t be exactly who she is, and I am thankful that my relationship with him resulted in the most amazing gift possible.
      <3 to you and Emma.

  31. This is beautiful and thoughtfully written. I couldn’t help but comment. Thank you for giving insight for single parents out there that I am seriously in absolutely awe of for so many reason. You tackled this beautifully. One of my best friends is a single parent and from conversations we’ve shared this couldn’t have been written any better. Thank you for the transparency, honesty, understanding and sensitivity.

  32. I’m so glad you spoke up! I’m not a single mom, but I was raised by one as my husbands was as well. I have often heard my friends, as well as, others say this, and both my husband, and I correct them. We tell them they have no idea what they are saying, and give them some of the examples you stated. It really makes them think about what they are saying. A few of these have been stay at home moms, and as you stated their husbands were away. They did not have to go and earn an income and also deal with the children and all the household stuff. While I understand that their life can be hard, it is definitely not the same. I had a wonderful life with my mom. My mom never remarried and even in her financial struggles I never felt deprived. I too have God for my father and I’m just fine with that! I lost my mom when I turned 21. My heavenly father took care of me in every single way following that time. I was so blessed by her and so glad I had her the years that I did, and for God’s giving me such abundant life in him! Thanks for writing this! It need to be said!

    1. Oh, Michelle, thank you for being someone who speaks up and a witness to your faith. I am so sorry for your loss. I hope to build my daughter up to be as strong as you one day!

  33. Hey, I really liked this. I have been a single parent of two scrummy girls from being pregnant with both (same genetic father). Its so hard to write about this without annoying someone. Usually I dislike ‘single parent’ articles because they paint such a negative light on single parenthood. Points 4 and 6 really hit home for me because of the questions even your children get asked about their paternal unit or lack there of is crazy and cutting for them as well as for you. Also answering the questions your children ask you without causing damage or deep psychological damage is really difficult. Anyway nice warm article about a touchy subject.

    1. Thanks, Tori! I too tend to shy away from the label because it is often loaded with a negative connotation. I love being a mom, and I tend to focus on just that, but I felt awareness was needed. I’m sorry that your girls are experiencing the comments – my daughter has only had one that I know of, from her preschool teacher, and she handled it well, but still, I don’t love that she even has to deal with it.

  34. I’ll stop calling myself a “married single” parent when you stop acting like it’s tougher to be a single parent. I have been both and it is MUCH more difficult to be “married single” than to be a single parent alone. I don’t lay awake at night any more wondering where their mother is or when she is coming home. I don’t come home to a random babysitter I never met anymore. I know when I will be taking care of them for the weekend now by myself instead of being told two hours before she left. You have your experience in life and I have mine. Don’t assume your experiences dictate how everyone else must have lived as well. If you want to write your blog about your own experiences, that is fine. Don’t tell others it’s harder being a single parent when it is better than being “married single”. Look at the positive, and quite frankly, stop complaining. You have your kids 24/7, what is better than that? Nothing!!

    1. Hi Aaron, I’m sorry to read about your experience and good for you for making the changes necessary to give your kids stability. However, you clearly didn’t read my post, so I hesitate to respond but just to give you the run-down:
      1. I repeatedly said that single parenting wasn’t harder, it was just different
      2. The point of the post was to give an insight as to the scope of single parenting, and allow people to know that using this term (especially to single parent friends) can be hurtful, as single parenting is more than just parenting solo for a while
      3. I repeatedly said that I LOVE my life and being a mom

      I understand your position, but if you had taken the time to read my post, you would know that the objections you list here are due to either a skimmed reading or just plain ignoring several things that I specifically wrote to ensure that people didn’t feel like I thought married life was easier. Why read something when you PLAN to be offended based on judging the title?

  35. I think this is a fabulous post!! I was a married parent, a single parent for 7 yrs and a Navy Wife parent for 12 yrs. My Navy husband was on sea duty the entire 12 yrs so he was rarely ever home. Now my kids are grown and I have grandkids and to this day I have a hard time when married people refer to themselves as single parents. You’re absolutely correct when you say it diminishes the experience of a true single parent. I think you did a great job expressing yourself wihOUT any judgements against anyone else’s experiences. Keep up the good work. God bless!!

    1. Thank you for your kind words 🙂 We have a proud military tradition in my family of mariners and army, and I have so much respect for all of the conditions that you raised your children within! Enjoy those grandbabies, you earned them!

  36. For those who are married and still want to claim they are a single parent, here is the bottom line:

    Even if you have a husband who you claim to be “worthless” or “does nothing” or ” couldn’t care less and doesn’t help” or any other variation the sheer fact that he actually exists as another adult in your home even if he does nothing but sit there and take up space is HUGE and it is something as a single parent I do not have the luxury of.

    How can it be a luxury? Here’s a couple of examples of how:

    It’s 9:30pm at night and I just realize I am out of milk/diapers/cold medicine/a part for a project/etc, I cannot leave my sleeping child to run out to the store to pick up said item but a married mom whose husband is at home can. It doesn’t matter that he might not want her to or not like that she does it because the married mom at least has the option and having options always makes life easier. As the single mom, I don’t. (which of course means I plan very well or I just figure out how to deal).

    Another instance. Being ill as the parent. In a single parent household, if you as the sole adult become very ill, very quickly, there is no other adult to assist.. It happens, it’s scary for you as the adult and it’s scary for your kids. At least with a husband who might do nothing else, he can in fact call for emergency care, take you for emergency care, calm your children or stay with the kids while you go get care.

    Do not negate the very real power of having another adult in the home. It’s huge. It’s what separates you from truly being a single mom.

    1. Thank you, Susie. I had to teach my daughter at 2 years old what to do in case of an emergency. It’s scary to think about, but there is a very real possibility that in the case of an emergency not only would a single parent go without care, but their children could very well be trapped inside the house with their parents (possibly unconscious or badly injured) until someone suspected something and managed to get in. It’s all of those things that just go unknown.

  37. As a single mom I have always found the term obnoxious, and I do hear it a lot. I also feel bad every time a friend says “but I shouldn’t be complaining to YOU” as if their struggles aren’t worth discussing because they think my life is so tough. If reading this post (the comments, actually) opens my eyes to one thing, it’s that I should be looking deeper at anyone who uses the term “single parent” when they’re in fact married. I see so many responses here that underline the feelings of isolation and desperation in an unequal partnership. If anything i can now recognize the term “married single parent” as a cry for understanding from my friends because there is no simple term for “I’m drowning here”, even if it’s just when their husband is working long hours.

    1. Hi Rebekah,
      Thanks for your insight – I absolutely agree. This post opened up a few of my friendships so my friends could start communicating about what it was that they were feeling rather than using that term.
      I do think we need to come up with a new terminology, one that I don’t feel qualified to propose (as stated in the post).
      I also think your comment speaks to how intimidating it is being vulnerable. I don’t think we should defend or continue the misuse of a term to avoid honesty – and truly, that’s what I think is going on. It’s scarier to call ourselves “lonely” than to call ourselves a “married single parent” (as stated in the post) and that’s concerning. It also goes back to the point that it casts single parenting in a negative light.

  38. i am married with two kids. I have found myself saying more than once that “I need to think like a single parent.” What this means to me is that I have to quit assuming that certain things will be taken care of since I am half of a partnership. Do not get me wrong my husband is a great father but there are many things he would rather not deal with. He was raised by a mother who did everything for his dad and so he expects that sometimes. So when it comes to my kids if I think like a single parent then I do not make assumptions about my husbands input and things run a lot smoother. It has also allowed me to ask for help when needed — I can be stubborn but I have learned to ask my mom, sister, or brothers for help with the kids. I even have learned how to ask things of my husband instead of assuming he would just do it. Guess what they love doing it! Great article definitely puts things in perspective

    1. Hi Nicole,
      Thanks so much for your comment. I love that you mention “think like a single parent” – it’s similar to something my friend’s mom used to say to her growing up, “what would you do if you were on a deserted island?” meaning, how would you figure this out in “less than ideal” circumstances?
      I think opening up and being vulnerable – I also used to struggle with asking for help – is something we need to talk about as a society. I think this phrase is getting used more because people are using it to actually express something else in a less direct way – they are afraid to ask for help, to say they feel lonely, etc.
      I’ve written before on acceptance and expectations, it’s definitely a hard one. I’m so glad that you family is helping you, and hopefully you’ll raise your children to have a different set of expectations 🙂

  39. I understand your point of view, and respect your experiences. But, neither you, nor most of my friends, understand the full scope of another’s situation. I have been a married, but separated parent to twin newborns and the married parents of three babies under 3. While most knew the outward view of my relationship difficulties, nobody knew the details, because, unlike younger people today (I am in my mid 40’s), I did not wear every issue on my sleeve, nor did I ever expect anyone to make up or help with my decisions. What a person chooses to call themselves has less to do with you, than it does with their feelings at the moment. Perhaps, they even use the single married parent not to hurt you, but to give you and themselves, a sense of being on the same team.
    In the end, so many people have commented here, each with their own issues and problems. Perhaps we should come up with “terms” for each nuance of different relationships? I would submit to you that you could add a considerable number of “terms” to our lexicon should you try to do so. That someone “feels like a single parent” does not mean that they are hurting you or other single parent friends. It was an expression of their feelings. If you and the other single parents I know are as tough as you say you are, doing it all without any help, than these words should not sting. You should hear what the person is saying in those words.

    Ps. My husband and I have two incomes, but can’t afford babysitters, date nights, nor girls nights out for me. The idea that marriage allows weekly nights out for either parent is ridiculous. Perhaps a dose of reality is due?

    1. Hi Michelle,
      I appreciate that you started your comment off respectfully, but I think as a psychologist (if you were a reader of my blog, you’d know that) I understand that no one has the perfect situation and am not in need of the reality check. This piece was not about who has it harder. I have married friends who I would definitely say have it harder based on individual circumstances. Even my VERY FIRST POINT was that the biggest issue is that it makes single parenting sound just hard and negative (in contrast to what the person speaking’s expectations of married life is).
      What this piece is about is giving others a view of the scope of single parenting and allowing others to understand that when they reduce or misunderstand single parenting to be “just parenting alone” they can make their friends feel misunderstood, unseen, and unappreciated. And no, not every strong, single parent is going to speak up because not everyone is going to have the words — the fact that this piece has gone viral on social media (I’m assuming that’s where you found it) says that there are many single parents who feel this way and want others to understand. Even looking at how many people labeled this piece as “complaining” (the comments that attacked me have been deleted) when I clearly stated several times that I’m not and that I LOVE MY LIFE — how should other single parents feel when someone who speaks up gets torn apart?

      1. Dear Jennifer,
        Not sure what you mean by “you started your post respectfully”, since my whole post was respectful. The reality check was not for you, but the numerous people who posted about two income families where wives get evenings out and babysitters at will. My comment was made to refute that. As the mother of a disabled child, I don’t have extra money to go out on my own and spend money on myself. Even though my child is legally considered disabled, we receive no assistance for her. Unlike some single mothers who state they get food stamps, housing monies, etc.
        I was not minimizing YOUR experience, so your profession as a psychologist makes no difference. Your experience is uniquely yours, as mine is mine. I was merely stating that perhaps, rather than labeling each other, or taking offense (at least where none is offered- and you’d be in a better position to know that from the people you associate with) we could all try to understand we are all just trying to get through the best we can. I could take offense Everytime someone asks me about my daughter being able to do anything normal. But, I don’t. I respect that “typically developing” isn’t part of the lexicon of parents not faced with disability. I choose not to pick on the words, but to hear the message; that they are interested in my child’s development and well being.
        Net net: if we focus so hard on the words used we may actually miss the message.
        I hope now you understand what I was trying to say.

        1. Hi Michelle,
          I’m sorry that I misread your previous message. Even though the response on social media to this post has been overly positive, I am starting to cringe every time I see a comment waiting – many people click over with no intention to consider an alternative view point, but really only to give me a piece of their minds and tell me off. I am totally exhausted from the influx of negativity, I’m sorry that I took the “dose of reality” to me directed at me.
          I do believe our words have power, and at least the women I know who use this phrase, they really believe it, so while I respect your opinion, I don’t think that it is acceptable to allow one’s feelings “in the moment” to allow insensitive phrases. Yes, there is grace in the moment with our friends, but we also need to let them know that the phrase isn’t thoughtful.
          I don’t think “hurt” is the best word to describe it; it’s a feeling of being misunderstood on a personal level (with friends) and having the single parenting experience so widely misunderstood that people don’t even realize that their experience as a “married single parent” is nothing like being a single parent, and when they use that phrase as a cry for help, it also makes it sound like single parenting is just understood to be “hard and horrible.”
          One of the things I most believe is that people seek understanding in this world, more than love. Yes, it goes both ways.

  40. Jennifer, your heart has spoken deeply to my heart. The Lord has used your words to speak truth and conviction into my life. I have often used this term with my husband when trying to explain how I feel to him or when “whining” to friends about the difficulty I’m having. I am sorry. THANK YOU for sharing this…It perhaps was difficult especially when you can’t control others’ responses to your heart..so double thanks!. I spoke out of my own hurt and was blind to how it may be viewed by someone in your position..I even have close family and friends who are single moms…This post the Lord has used to strengthen me and change me into more of who He wants me to be. I am so thankful to see that you are enJOYing parenthood and yes, being the only one to make the parenting choices def. has its benefits! Keep giving thanks in all things…it SO brightens up any part of life..no matter where we find ourselves…blessings to you!

    1. Thank you so much, Christy <3 This is not what I typically write about, but I do think God had a huge hand in it. I felt so drawn to writing about this, even though in all honesty, part of me didn't want to. I've had a few popular posts, but this one has taken on a life of it's own and I hope it gives words to those who need it, and understanding to those who need that, as well.
      While it has been hard receiving the negativity, I don't regret writing the post and I feel His strength. Some of the nastier comments are the kind that before would have knocked me down, and I've been a bit shocked that they haven't! That's all Him.

  41. (sigh) Amen sister. A.MEN. The very article I hoped to find when I typed “when a married parent calls themselves a single parent” in the google search engine because I’ve about had it with the whiny “single parent for a week” comments that so gracelessly spew from my colleagues and family, lacking any tact or compassion for those of us who live it every. single. day.

    I feel comforted in the knowledge I’m not alone; I’m not the only one who struggles with this oversimplification of the term “single parent” and feels condescended and undervalued by it. And I thank you for that comfort.

  42. Hi! I felt your post was very well written as well as sensitively written. I have been a true single parent and I am now a married parent who is married to a man who loves to hunt and fish. I knew this when I married him and I love it about him. It does leave me at home with my children without him but it is who he is and I love him. I think all the things you said are valid. It not only is hurtful to single parents when married parents use the term “married single parent” but it is degrading to their spouse. I like reading posts like yours that remind us to count our blessings. Having been a single parent before I do appreciate the little things like being able to run errands while my child is not up from a nap yet. I appreciate the fact that if I do have something I have to do , my husband is willing to help out. I appreciate that I do not have to mow the yard or take cars to get fixed and call someone to come an d pick me up. I appreciate that there is another set of keys in the county that I can get to when I lock mine in the car. I appreciate seeing the love on his face when he looks at “my” son ( he says “our son”) and “our” son.

  43. Hi Jennifer,

    I stumbled upon this post in an attempt to research the proper term for me to use for my situation and I wonder if you may be able to help me find one. This is an earnest request and long winded explanation to follow. I have been referring to myself as a single parent but I am married to my daughter’s father. It’s caused a great deal of strife in my home and the most horrific fights (some of them in front of our daughter). We are separated and he lives in a structure outside of our home but on the same property. He is struggling with a massive health issue and is unable to parent our daughter in many practical ways. He also did not really want a child when we had her. I want to be clear, he ADORES our daughter and he spends time with her (potentially more time with her than I do because I work full time and he’s mostly unemployed or working from home), plays with her, and gives me a small monthly payment toward her expenses (I don’t ask it or expect it of him, I know he’s in a tough financial spot and the fact that he does it unasked is incredibly generous and honorable). He is not her caregiver during the day while I am at work, that duty is split between a nanny and my mom (finding nannies has fallen under my list of responsibilities). The trouble is, he thinks very poorly of me. I would stop short of saying he hates me, but he doesn’t like me much. He’s made it clear he’s only sticking around because he loves our daughter (and because he has to due to his health issue and financial situation). With that said, I can’t assume I have his support in any aspect of childcare. If I want to make plans to go out one night, I need to first check with my mom to see if she can look after the baby. If my mom is free, I can make plans. I will then check with him to see if he can look after her. He usually says yes, but not always and in the end, final responsibility for child care coverage is 100% mine. When our daughter is sick or her caregiver is sick and one of us has to lose work (we both go unpaid when we miss work) I am the one who has to miss work. For pre-school tours, I am the one who has to go on them, he has agreed to join me on the ones that require both parents be present. He doesn’t have a car seat in his car and therefore cannot drive her. I bought him a car seat when she was an infant and it sat in it’s box in the garage (where it still is, actually) until she outgrew it and we had to move to a larger seat. I don’t have money to waste buying him another car seat, if he wants one, he will need to buy it. I am responsible for getting her to all doctors visits, classes and playdates (he doesn’t even know who her friends are). I am responsible for making sure she has the foods she eats in the fridge, that we don’t run out of diapers, that her laundry is washed, folded and put away. I am the one who knows what she likes to eat, what she can’t eat (she’s had some eating issues and has choked a few times) and how much milk is too much before bed (to prevent night time accidents). I am the one who administers medication, trims her nails, bathes her, brushes her hair. He’s never done any of these things (aside from administering infant pain meds a few times when she’s been teething). And all of these things, the baths, the feedings, the laundry, the doctors, I LOVE it! I wanted a child for soooo long, I am deeply grateful to get to do these things for this amazing little person. I want to be clear, I am not complaining about doing these things, I am just saying, I am the one that does them. I am also the one who goes to sleep alone at night (he sleeps alone, too), often in tears, and feels that not only do I not get to share the burdens of parenthood with a partner, but I don’t get to share the joys either. Because, like you said, and I concur, there is SO MUCH joy. I want to celebrate those things with a partner, but I can’t do that. I don’t have a partner who is willing to share any of it with me. There is no doubt that given the state of things, we should not be living on the same property at this point, but unfortunately the city we live in is very expensive and there is no way that either of us can financially afford to move out (unless we leave this city which he desperately wants to do and we’d always planned to do, but I can’t do now that things are the way that they are between us). I need to find a way to keep the peace because the fighting (especially in front of our daughter) is not ok with me. He tells me that referring to myself as a single mother is the cause of all of our problems (not true – a year ago the cause of all of our problems, according to him, was that he’d said he wasn’t ready for kids and I did it anyway). He tells me that if we are to have any chance at getting along (not getting back together, just getting along) I need to come up with a new phrase to describe myself. I honestly don’t know what that phrase is and I am desperately hoping you can help me out with that phrase. Also, I feel compelled to mention, lest you or other readers judge me for “tricking” him into having a child, I did not “trick” him. We are adoptive parents, I have never been pregnant. We had to sign reams of papers and have multitudes of interviews in order to bring our daughter into our lives and in the end, while he adores her, he resents me for doing it. Again, I feel the need to iterate, he is so kind, loving, wonderful and generous to her. Part of the issue he takes with me using the phrase is he feels it denigrates him and the herculean effort he’s made toward parenting her despite his health issues. I tell him over and over again that it’s not about him. She’s lucky to have such a loving father. It’s about me and the lack of support that I get as a mother. The latest fight came up because he read a journal entry that I had written to our daughter (I keep a journal to give her when she’s 21) and in the entry I am explaining to her why I had to tell the DCFS that I was unable to adopt her 2 biological sisters from foster care. I want them desperately, but I cannot do it as a single parent. I cannot raise 3 children under 3 on my own. And because I don’t ever want to be the person that would ever disparage her father, I took the FULL burden of the responsibility of the choice not to adopt them onto myself. I did not tell her that her father said “if you do that, I will be forced to move far away from here and you will, in effect, be taking my daughter away from me.” I did not tell her that part. But in the entry I did say “I am a single mother now and I can’t do it on my own.” This sounds like a soap opera and I’m ashamed of it, but this is my life and if I was any less desperate I would not leave a long winded note on a strangers blog asking for advice. If you or anyone else can tell me what the proper phrase is for me to use, please, please help me. (He has suggested that the proper phrase should be “primary caregiver” but that doesn’t encompass it for me)

    Thank you!
    M.

    1. First, thank you so much for trusting and confiding in me the details of what’s going on. My heart goes out to you – because feeling lonely in parenting is something deeper than those who I wrote this post for.

      While technically I guess “primary caregiver” is accurate, that’s also a term for parents where the dad is more involved and there is a relationship. I would say you are separated, in a marital sense, and I would say that your experience is similar to that of a separated partner… Flying solo, solo parenting, or even co-parenting are alternative terms that may find that balance between your experience and his desire to still be acknowledged. However, I do think that you should not feel obligated to frame your parenting experience based on what makes him happy, though I think your desire to do so speaks to your character and your commitment to a positive co-parenting relationship.

      1. Thank you so much for your kind response and help. I will test the waters with solo-parenting and see how that flies. I really appreciate it.

  44. This is very interesting. Thanks for the post. It’s obvious from all the comments that this is a polarizing issue. I am a married mother of two school-aged kids and I also work full-time. I use the term “married single parent” all the time to describe my life and I feel that it’s an accurate description of my situation and I don’t feel like I need to apologize for it. However, I never imagined it would hurt someone who is an actual single parent (e.g. other parent is not in the child’s life in any way) so I appreciate your perspective and I’ll probably only use this term now with other “married single parents” and not in the presence of a real single parent like yourself. I guess the difficulty is, many of the things you describe are not actually a part of many married relationships. There are many marriages, including mine and that of many of my friends, where the father is present in the house and in most cases contributing a salary but not doing anything else at all. So the things you talk about – the companionship, the person to run things by, the plans for the future, the intimacy – they’re often not there.

    My husband has never felt that becoming a parent should interfere with any of the things he did as a childless man. It started when the kids were babies. Even though we both worked full-time, he never got up in the middle of the night when they were crying or hungry, even just to keep me company or offer support. He still regularly sleeps in on the weekends, spends money on foolish things and feels he should put his feet up when he gets home from work. I do all of the cooking, shopping, tidying up and organizing. We have a cleaner who comes in every two weeks to do the major cleaning. I don’t mind cleaning and I asked him if we could split it 50/50 but he said he didn’t want to do any so we have to pay someone because I just can’t manage it all.

    I plan all of the family events, go to all the kids parent teacher interviews, schedule their appointments, monitor their homework and make sure they have project supplies and that everything is turned in on time. I go online to book swimming lessons, fill out all their school forms, sign them up for camps, pick them up from school when they’re sick and take them to all their doctor and dentist appointments. I plan all the birthday parties, buy all the presents, organize Christmas, get them up in the morning and put them to bed at night. I work full time but when I get home I immediately start making dinner. Sometimes my husband will chop vegetables if I leave him very detailed instructions but I’m often too rushed in the morning to write them out. I also take care of our family finances and manage all the banking. I don’t want to do all of these things. I am exhausted and run ragged and I have had a million conversations with my husband about it but nothing changes. When he does do things with the kids it’s fun heroic things like going to a theme park or playing video games and then I’m the grinch who has to remind them to do their homework and brush their teeth.

    I realize that I am not in a good situation and I will need to do something about it eventually but I’m struggling with that decision because of the kids. It is a big decision to make and I don’t want to make it lightly. I know many other women who are in the same or similar situation as me and they also call themselves “married single parents”.

    I guess my thinking is if I’m going to be alone, I’d rather just be alone. At least I wouldn’t have to pick up after my husband and fight with him all the time. I feel a lot of resentment and I don’t think I would feel that if I was truly single. I know if I was a “real” single parent, I would have less money but honestly, I think I’d be fine with that right now. If that sounds flippant I’m sorry but that’s how I feel.

    1. Hi Chelsea,
      Thank you for your comment – I appreciate your time and giving this post consideration.
      And thank you for sharing openly about your situation – I know that it must feel lonely and unappreciated. (Though I am envious at the moment that you have a theme park helper after having to carry my daughter on my own shoulders all week at Disney!)
      As said in the post, I completely understand that marriages come in all shapes and sizes and not all are idyllic – but I also said that one of my MAIN issues with this “married single parent” term is that it makes being a single parent sound like a negative. I LOVE my life – yes, there are many differences between my life and a married person’s life, even the small things which have to go unsaid in this post, like being able to maybe run an errand while your husband is home watching TV and the kids are asleep – unlike me having to drag my child out at 10pm if I realize we need to absolutely do something before tomorrow. It’s not that it’s worse, or harder – and I don’t like the negative connotation that is always cast with this term because it assumes my/our life is negative, and our life is pretty darn good.

      1. I’m sure your life is pretty darn good and that’s why I’m confused that you see the term “married single parent” as in any way suggesting being a single parent is negative. When my friends and I use the term we are suggesting that being a “married single parent” is negative but being a “single parent” is positive. We wish we were single parents because things are so unequal at home that we’ve decided we would rather parent our kids full time on our own than have to fight and bargain with another adult in the house, even though we know it would be harder in the many ways you and others have pointed out here.

        At this point, we are jealous of single parents. I realize that might upset you and many other people on here, especially those who didn’t choose single parenthood and I’m sure many people are thinking that this is a terrible comment and that I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. And I admit I don’t. I’ve never been a truly single parent but as some posters have pointed out, being a single parent is actually easier if it means you make all the decisions about how to raise your child. I guess what I’m saying is, never assume what anyone means by a certain term. Sure, if you’re a military spouse and you truly love your spouse who is away and they are as supportive as possible, then I can see how you might view the term “married single parent’ as being negative towards single parents but believe me, when I and others in my situation use it we are not disparaging single parents in any way. We are saying we would rather be a single parent because it would be better.

        On a more constructive note, thanks again for the post. It was really good and reading and commenting here has helped me to come to terms with some of issues I’m dealing with and what I need to do about them (besides complaining). You seem like a great person and a great mother and my Google search brought me to your site which I love and will start to read regularly.

        1. I look forward to seeing you around other parts of the site 🙂 This post is heated for a lot of reasons, but I stand behind everything it says to this day.

          I do want to caution others though – being a single parent, just like any situation – is much harder than it looks. I LOVE our life, but it is harder than any list can convey. (Just like your marriage is harder than it looks like on the outside.) I just choose not to focus on that. My daughter has had strep throat 38 times and a couple dozen ear infections. So, in addition to the roles of caretaker, cleaning up the mess, etc, I’m also the sole income provider and having to figure out how the time off work is going to be made up, how to pay for the prescriptions, etc.
          We just made it through Orlando International alone, with 3 suitcases, 4 carry-ons, a stroller and I’m praising my daughter for getting through the airport for the first time without requesting to be picked up (Orlando Airport is her worst) and now I’m simultaneously feeding her, playing red light green light, and getting some work done. It is always the work of two parents – being a single parent doesn’t reduce the work load. It’s more the interpersonal struggles that I skip (but in the case of divorced parents, I’m sure their interpersonal, co-parenting issues are often difficult).

  45. I have been a single parent since my son was 2 months old. I cried reading this… multiple times. I, too, feel beyond blessed. I almost find it impossible to imagine doing it with someone else. That just seems more dcompkicatedto me… lol!

    1. Hi Alyssa,
      I’m sorry I missed your comment – we were travelling that week! I do sometimes wonder how I’m going to share parenting if I ever meet someone…

  46. Hello, thanks for this article. I have used this term when my partner is away many times to a friend of mine who IS a single parent. It was not something I was even aware was insensitive or hurtful. After saying it a number of times, she exploded at me with a great deal of anger and resentment. I couldn’t understand what her problem was so I got mad and things just escalated from there. Basically, she wasn’t able to articulate herself as well as you.
    I’m glad I’ve stumbled on this article because I can now she why she was upset. You’ve explained your point of view in a respectful way without the anger spouted by my friend and many other articles I’ve read online.
    I have now genuinely, from the heart apologized to my friend. Your article has contributed a great deal to saving our friendship. I’m very grateful to have read it.

    1. Thank you so much for your note, Andie – it made my day! I sometimes dread when I see that I have a comment on this article because of some of the mean comments others have left, but honestly, your comment (and the impact it had on your friendship) makes it worth it.
      I hope you two are able to repair everything and start your friendship fresh in a place of better understanding – I once read that being understood is a better feeling than being loved, and I think a combination of the two is the holy grail.

  47. This post is pure awesome. Thank you for saying it out loud while so many single moms sit gritting our teeth as married moms try to relate to us while revealing all of their negative stereotypes of downtrodden single moms. What are you supposed to say when someone is inadvertently offending you? Just smile and nod 🙂

    No one understands what is to be a single mom except for single moms. Period. There are other ways to describe being an married woman who is emotionally, practically, or financially unsupported by her partner. Ask a divorced mom – most of us were there before we divorced. That’s a conversation in which we could meet and understand one another. But no one understands what it is to be a single mom except for single moms.

    And yes, we as single moms recognize that there is a lot of variation in single motherdom. I relate better with single moms who are going at it completely solo – no shared custody, no co-parenting, no child support, grandparents who can’t be bothered, and some dad who reappears once in a while to disrupt my preschooler kids’ emotional acceptance with his absence. I relate best with those who are – a few years after the tornado and shame of divorce passed – happier and more financially stable alone than with a trainwreck husband and his crises. Dad is out of the picture, more or less, brush off knees and pull it together for the kids. Those are the single mommies whose blogs and comments most resonate with me. And thanks to those who are so honest online when I need it.

    The thing about being a single mom that no one else can understand is what it feels like to be stigmatized as a single mom. And what it does to our children to be stigmatized as coming from “broken homes”. (I can’t believe that people still use that phrase to my face). And best intentions aside, “married single mom”, “single married mom”, and (I’ll just say it) “single moms by choice” all reproduce that tired stigma. Please just hear us tell you that it’s damaging to us AND OUR CHILDREN and not quip back. We as single moms are telling you to please be more mindful.

    For those married moms out there who are solo parenting: I feel for you and all of the decisions and struggles that you have to face in your married situation. Yours is a unique situation that involves another person who you thought would love, support, and co-parent with you. That’s a different conversation in which I’m sure your single mom friends of all stripes would be happy to share, listen, and empathize. But recognize it as something unique from their experiences as solo women-only headed households. As the author says, own your situation and name it appropriately so that you can work through it with your partner, your friends, and online mommy forums.

    1. Yes yes yes.
      Thank you for your comment. You make so many good points – and you’re right, because many of us handle our situation with grace people often assume that we became a “single parent by choice” and aren’t the typical single parent… no, it’s just that we don’t all fit in that stereotype of the downtrodden single parent who gripes about her ex! I recognize that my situation is harder but BETTER without him, and I will never complain about the privilege of being able to raise my girl.
      I don’t know what kind of reaction people expect to get when they use the term “married single parent” – because I know I don’t get sympathy or understanding when I mention I’m a single parent. I most often receive judgment or a side-eye wondering if I’m looking for sympathy. The fact is, there is a unique set of circumstances that affect even the smallest details of our life – things that non-single parents can’t begin to understand. Like the grocery example.

      1. Thanks for commenting back. I don’t think any single mom realizes how society’s views of single moms (irresponsible, loose, reckless, selfish, leaching off society, and so on, and so on, and so on…) would come to bear on our own families until we are standing knee deep in it. As much as I can tell myself that I don’t care what people think, it does affect my self image and I can see it starting to affect the way my children see themselves in this world. They see our family as lacking something – a dad.

        While I realize that married women conjuring themselves as “married single women” see it as a nod to women’s perseverance and heroism when dad is falling short, it ignores all those other things that “single mom” conjures up. It’s sort of like throwing around the word “ghetto” without any regard for the full weight of what that word means and social and classist baggage that it carries with it.

        We don’t get to choose to call ourselves “single mom” when it feels like we deserve more recognition for carrying a family on our own. It’s just what we are. And you can hardly start to say “I am a single mom” before there is some mean troll trolling back about how tired they are of single moms victimizing themselves and can’t we take responsibility for the children we brought into this world; it’s not society’s fault that we made these kids, blah blabbity blah.

        Why do I care so much? Because it’s about the kids.

        People have learned that “bastard” is not a nice word because it shames the child. But “single mom” is one of those social identifiers that sounds like it is just a matter of fact: A mom without a partner. But there is no escaping all of the other things that it has come to mean. And even very young children learn that having a single mom is something to be ashamed of. As they get older, they learn that the odds are stacked against them, that they are more likely to live in poverty, that they will have to fight hard to keep out of trouble, and that they will struggle throughout their lives to keep up with their peers from two parent homes. https://www.brainchildmag.com/2013/03/single-mom-stigma-alive-and-kicking/

        So, I just can’t think of any instance when a married mom calling herself a single mom is a compliment (I saw that the original post was edited to consider this).
        Besides all the stuff that married women just can’t get about being really truly financially, emotionally and practically responsible for their children at all times, using “single mom” as an emphatic way to describe their situations in partnered relationship is not benign. It just reproduces the same old stereotypes about single mothers while we have to live with that stigma. Why not just pick another phrase that has nothing to do with real live single moms? Just wonderin’

  48. It saddens me that we, as women, still are not acknowledging the lack of support and having a companion in 2017. Yes I have a marriage certificate. I have been alone nearly my entire marriage. Average 300 days per year. From diapers to high school it was all me. I have 3 fiends, because no one wants the married party of One showing up at the party. I too am disabled and I can say YES I feel very single & married. I can not begin to count how many times I have Not gone to ER after a serious fall or injury because I had No One to watch my children let alone get a ride. My 12 year old called 911 when she awoke to me passing out and smaking my head on the tile. I have literally Fallen and can’t get up, happened last week. I have neurological disorders , autoimmune and I’m on Chemo. Being married isn’t automated happiness and financial stability. We are all unique and should strive to help each other and stop bickering over labels; which in the end never define our true selves.

    1. I’m sorry for your struggles, but I don’t think you read my post or else you’d get that my point isn’t that having a partner is easier.
      My point is that being a single parent is about more than parenting solo and it’s about more than finances, and using “married single parent” is insulting to those of us who actually ARE SINGLE PARENTS because it’s never meant to describe a positive situation or perspective.
      Using the “label” of “married single parent” hurts many single parents and makes them feel misunderstood and unseen – I even wrote a whole post to explain the perspective and STILL several people just jump to the comments to state their misinformed interpretations based on a brief scan (and often, just a reaction to the title). You don’t even stop to hear us and hear our experience – so why equate yourself with us?

  49. I’m kind of shocked by the negative reaction to this post. I didn’t feel the author was trying to say that married spouses never have a hard time. I really cringed at the attacks by some of the responders when the author was not attacking in her manner in her post. I understand that sometimes you can feel very alone in a relationship – I’ve been there. However, I, too, feel that those who are married or those in partnership should think about using this term – at the very least be sensitive to who hears you talking. I recently heard a woman who was upset about her husband having to go out of town for a few days complain to a recently widowed woman with a young child about how hard it was going to be for the couple of days when she would have to do it on her own. Now it may very well be hard for her but you can only imagine how the woman who was widowed felt. At the very least, know your audience.

    1. Thank you, Kelly,
      It has gotten to the point where if I get a notification that this post has a new comment, my stomach tightens. People just google the term now and leave a nasty comment – or they read what their friend wrote about the article when sharing it on FB and just respond angrily to me instead of talking to their friend.
      I’ve considered unpublishing the article but then I think of comments like Andie’s above have encouraged me to leave it up because it can help friends realize their insensitive comments and repair relationships with the single moms in their lives that they hurt with this silly term.

  50. I am a married single parent. I love my kid and the time I spend with them. I don’t view parenting as a negative but I am parenting on my own. My husband is gone Monday to Friday and home on weekends. I can count on one hand the times he got up with the kids in the middle of the night or the morning. I make all the decisions go to all the appointments and events. I am parenting on my own so yes I am a married single parent. I don’t say that to take away from single moms. I love everything about being a mom even when it kinda sucks and is really hard. Being a mom is the hardest job you will ever do regardless of your marital status.

    1. OK well clearly you didn’t read my article at all because it does take away from us – and there are other terms you can use. Do what you want, but know that your refusal to have understanding for why this term is insensitive may hurt or isolate you from the people in your life who are TRUE single parents.
      (And I had a woman say this in a group that I was in just last week – I grimaced but didn’t say anything and won’t; she has no idea that I felt that what she said was completely insensitive. People don’t always tell you when you cross a line.)

  51. I feel like this needs to always stay published. There aren’t enough people exposing the struggles of being a single parent. I have sole custody of my children and their father has them every other weekend, just because of that I feel guilty calling myself a single parent. The difference it makes to have every other weekend of, in helping cope with the situation of having lost my family, is inmense and I take my hat off to women who don’t even have that.

    1. I don’t take either side lightly. While I’d love child support or a weekend to spend with friends, run errands, maybe go on a date, have some me time – or frankly, clean the house and not worry about what chaos is happening in the other room as I do it! – I also don’t underestimate how hard it must be to create a peaceful and positive co-parenting relationship (if at all possible), and how hard it must be to have the limitations of a parent who is no longer your partner. (Travelling, moving, etc.)
      I hope what people take from this post is to check our prejudices/pre-conceived notions of terms like “single parent” and to realize that every situation is multifaceted – including all these people who are feeling lonely or unsupported in their marriages. By truly hearing our friends and giving them the space to discuss their experiences without trying to diminish them or reading negativity into them, we can gain better understanding into their lives – and don’t we all just want to feel understood?

  52. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this piece. It is one of the most frustrating and offensive things when someone tells me that they are “just like a single parent” because they have to do something with their children on their own. It’s in no way the same.

    I shared this on all my social media. Thank you again for expressing this so eloquently.

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  54. I’m going to be honest, I did not read every comment so if I repeat something someone already said, I apologize.
    Where I understand where you are so oh ng from I would like to offer my perspective on the topic. I often refer to myself as a “married single parent”. I dont think I have ever ment it negatively. A single parent, like you said, is someone one who doesnt have the extra set of hands, or the shoulder to cry on at the end of a long day, the person to lean to when you need 5 minutes alone, the “hey, can you stir this while I pee” person.
    However, I have used the “married single parent” to provide perspective to someone else when they assume that just because I am married I have all those things.
    I got married, had a plan for a family, had a baby as part of that plan. It was not unexpected, it was not bad timing… it was planned and on purpose. Now I am left to live a single parents life because the “married” part of my story turned out to not do anything but be my second child.
    So I dont think the term is always used in a negative light. I simply have used it for perspective when my friends or family say “you always look tired” or “dont you get tired of not getting to go anywhere?”. My response is usually “I live the married single parent life, priorities are different for me”

    1. Thank you for voicing your issue respectfully.
      I still ascertain that simply saying “I’m not getting help”, “I’m doing it all myself” or “I’m not feeling supported” and other more honest, direct statements are always better than co-opting what it is that single parents go through.
      Your children know their father, you may not get help, but it doesn’t sound loveless. Can you imagine having to navigate dating with a small child? Fearing that you won’t find someone who loves you both – or is possibly in it “for the wrong reasons?” Can you imagine the bank or school discrimination that I have experienced as a single parent? Because that’s my reality. It’s not a title I get to try on when I think it fits. The discrimination, the financial struggles, the fear of ending up alone – it is so much more than all of these things. Some people get turned away (or made to feel uncomfortable) at jobs, churches, etc.

  55. I know your words mean to be kind and explain sstuff. I dont say I’m a married single parebt to be hurtful to single parent life. I was a single parent for a long time. Remarried and had a child. My every waking hour I am home is taking care of said child age 5 now. Father when he is home dont lift a finger. I am ready orbs divorce. If I am going to be treated ass a single parent than I may as well be. Some at that phrase because they gey no help from their so when they both made the decision to have a child. I clean I do laundry I work ful time I take out the trash. I have asked him many times and get igbored because his phone, movie, game, friendss are more important. He works too but has had yhe last two weeks off because machene malfunction at work. I been working and taking extra hours to make up for what ia lost and sstill have to do everything including getting our child ready for school. He forgets that this iss supposed to be a partnership. He is more like my live in babysitter. So when I say married single parent, I dont say it lightly. It means I bust my ass to do what I need to for my child. While my husband acts like he is 12. Technically I have two children in my home. One just happens to be an adult I am matried to. And to clear tho gs up about being a ssingle parent before.. I have two older children who are over 18 now and in college. I raised them from age 8 and 10 to adult by myself. I know single parent life. I just happen to married this time. I dont need prayers. I need therapy and to vent.

    1. While I understand the need to vent, one of the points of this post is this:

      –> Your desire to vent should not come at the cost of hurting those around you.

      This term is hurtful and leaves actual single parents feeling misunderstood, unseen, and hurt.

      I have all the sympathy that you thought married life would be different and your husband isn’t measuring up. I’d rather be single, too, than have a breadwinner that acts like a child and isn’t helping build a worthwhile relationship. In fact, I’ve loved single parenthood. Nothing about this post is supposed to indicate that it is worse than married life. However, the way you use the term suggests that it is something negative, and that’s the point.

  56. At this point I can honestly say I’m a single parent in a two parent household . My boyfriend of 4 years & father of our two children hasn’t had a stable form of income the entire time we’ve been together. He’s addicted to video games and will stay up all night playing them and sleep all day (when the kids are awake and responsibilities need to get done) . Doesn’t cook, clean, do laundry, doesn’t try to look for a job. If the kids want to play he’ll get frustrated they’re interrupting his game. I go do grocery shopping alone usually with the kids. The sole breadwinner of the household, the only one who keeps track of bills, the one who makes sure there’s food in the fridge . For the first 1.5 years I would take out first born to my nanas so she can watch him while I worked. He stayed at home to play video games. I get home .. no interaction. He says I talk to much. Doesn’t remember anything I say. I feel so alone .. I have my own business I’ve been able to build up regardless of my circumstances and he doesn’t really care . I talk about my goals and dreams of being a homeowner, in one ear out the other … I’m so tired . I stay at home now and work from home since I wasn6 months pregnant with #2 .. so I’m pretty much a work from home mom of 3.

  57. I disagree with you. When married people say they are a “single married mom” it is a feeling and it’s not to mean to other moms. I feel like that but I don’t say it out loud. My husband is disabled and refused to get disabled. And that being said I am the only one who is working, taking care of my daughter, and the housework. I don’t make enough and my husband never goes anywhere with us. He could do more around the house but won’t do it. I’m tired and I feel like I’m doing it on my own. He doesn’t help me emotionally or physically. I understand why it would make people mad tho.

  58. It’s interesting that so many commenters here say that they don’t intend to use the term ‘married single mom’ negatively. However, they then go on to explain that they are using it to describe how they feel about all the negative aspects of their life. They are in fact using the term to convey something negative and it is, in fact, insensitive and hurtful to actual single moms (many of whom have wonderful lives).

    1. Exactly! Thank you for pointing out this blind spot.

      I also feel like when they go on to complain, they also unintentionally highlight ways we are so different. “He works 60 hours a week so I’m alone with the kids” – wait, there are 60 hours of income coming into your home that YOU didn’t have to earn yourself, and you get to enjoy your children during that time?! How many single moms could only dream of that? I have sympathy for the loneliness and the overwhelm, but the negative labeling and comparing help no one.

  59. Wow.. this is a horrible thing to say to people! How inconsiderate to those who are in a shitty marriage AND being forced to raise the children. It should in no way be hurtful to a single parent for someone to call themselves a “married single parent”. It’s a very real thing to be a “married single parent”, in fact it’s MUCH harder than being a single parent in MANY ways. Not only do we raise our children alone, but a married single parent also has to raise an extremely selfish adult child called a “spouse”. Single parents don’t have to deal with the abuse and neglect that comes along with being a “married single parent”. Think about that next time you try to shut people up, all because what they describe themselves as may offend you? Its offensive that your actually telling people to stop calling themselves “married single parents”. Do you as a single parent endure some selfish ass adult sitting on your couch verbally abusing you, neglecting everything, destroying the house like a pig, and making you raise his fucking kids while he just sits around burping and farting and not giving a literal fuck about anything? No, you raise your children without all that headache.. so please dont pick on “married single parents”, we are real people, we have feelings too, and we do & sacrifice far more than most parents would. So you can take your single parent attitudes and shove it up your arses* MARRIED SINGLE PARENTS ARE REAL,
    GET OVER IT*
    Sincerely,
    An offended married single parent

    1. Hi Yukine,
      I’m going to assume you spent more time writing this comment than you did reading my post. Your vitriolic comment doesn’t deserve a response – no part of my post contains hate or judgment. It explains how single parenthood is different (the GOOD and the unseen) and serves to encourage people to be more thoughtful when using this term. However, your own righteous indignation didn’t allow you to read past the headline – you decided what this post was about without opening your heart and mind.
      When I wrote this post 5 years ago, I made sure to clarify that lonely or negative partnerships are something separate. There is no need to co-opt a term and make single parenting seem NEGATIVE, which this term conveys. What you are is in an unhappy marriage, lonely, and pissed off. You have every right to be – and you have every ability to change your reality, for yourself and your children.
      If you choose to change your circumstances, you will find a wonderful community of single mothers who are willing to hold you up and support you. I will be the first one to send you budgeting tips, encouragement, or lend an ear.
      I hope 2020 brings you what you are looking for, but leaving hateful comments on blog posts that have repaired friendships and made one of society’s most judged groups of women feel seen and heart is not the way to do that.

  60. This article bothers me because i feel like you are trying to invalidate other people experience. In the article you listed out the difficulties of single parents and keep giving off the vibe that says ‘single parent’ term only belongs to those that is not married, period. You liken the term ‘single parent’ to ‘married single parents’ when it is not. These two terms highlights TWO different situations. ‘Single parent’ is when you parent a child solo/alone. ‘Married single parent’ is when you have a spouse but for reasons you are still parenting a child solo/alone. Each situation has its own joy and struggles and it doesnt matter which situation has it harder to be more deserving of the title ‘single’. Single still means you are solo/alone married or not. So dont tell people to stop using the term ‘married single parent’ just because they have a spouse because it makes them feel invalidate of their hardship. At the end of the day, everyone just wants acknowledgement and understanding from others. It does not matter what term they use.

    1. The whole point is that it DOES matter what term they use. People are going to be stubborn and entitled to this term no matter how many good points or emphasizing I give. I put a post out into the world that let people know that this phrase offends and hurts REAL single parents because it invalidates and overlooks their real experience, and also frames single parenthood in a negative light.
      If someone wants to continue using that term – that’s their choice, but they are also choosing that now knowing that it may cause hurt and offence to their ACTUAL single parent friends. (And it’s not “unintentional” hurt anymore, because you’ve been informed why this may be hurtful – and have chosen that your entitlement to the term is more important.)
      Do you select single on forms at the bank? Do you select single when filling out a social media profile? If the answer is no, then you are not a single parent. You may be unsupported or lonely – in which case, why not speak to the REAL issue rather than use this offensive term?

  61. This whole article is just a “nice” way to say single moms have it worse off than married single moms and that’s not true. Married mom’s have to deal with the dad everyday while single mom’s only have to deal with them during time aloud by the court. Also single moms get alot of help from social services to help with costs. To say single moms trump married single moms is a completely selfish thing to say especially if you’ve never been in that situation. In my experience being a married single mom is much harder because you have someone you hope to help and their not there is heartbreaking where as a single mom expects the father won’t help so she doesn’t think anything of it. It’s definitely more heartbreaking and stressful being a married single mom…and yes it’s a real thing!!

    1. No, it’s really not. The post is about understanding that single motherhood is MORE than feeling like you’re doing it alone – it has it’s own unique stresses and situations that are not bigger or lesser than co-parenting/couplehood.

      It’s INSANELY presumptious of you to say that “single moms get help from social services” – do you not see how you are stereotyping single moms in your statement? We’re not all low income, on social services, etc. This type of stereotyping is not helpful. Also the statement that a single mom wouldn’t hope for help – in my experience, the single moms attempting to co-parent with an ex (which not all of us are) who aren’t helpful, have their hearts broken regularly, watching their children be disappointed and hurt time and time again.

      I spoke to many married couples while writing and editing this piece – from military spouses, to women whose husbands travel and work shift work. I have incredible empathy for all types of situations and I even speak to them in these piece. This was an attempt to shed some light on how this term is unkind, dismissive and stereotyping.

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